Cancer is the major public health issue facing Western societies. Nowadays, at least one in four of us will suffer from cancer in our lifetimes and we all know of someone who has or has had this devastating disease. Modern medicine has made some advances in fighting this illness and new treatments are introduced every year but millions continue to get cancer and many will die from it. It is only to be expected that people will start to look for natural remedies.
Cancer can affect just about every part of the body and people of all ages can get cancer. Cancer treatment is centered on three approaches. Surgery aims to cut out the cancer from the affected part of the body. Chemotherapy uses chemicals (taken orally or intravenously) to kill the cancer cells. Radiotherapy targets radiation at the affected tissue. Sometimes a combination of all three are used.
There is now great interest in how nature can help in the fight against cancer and flax and green tea have received particular attention.
Can a poor diet cause cancer?
There is some evidence that some types of food increase our chances of developing cancer. Cured meats have received a lot attention in the media lately. Public health campaigns focus on encouraging people to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is likely that diet will play a role in the development of cancer but it is by no means the whole story.
Other possible causes of cancer
The causes of cancer are likely to be a combination of:
- the food we eat
- environmental carcinogens (pollution and workplace exposure to substances like asbestos)
- genetic factors (some people are simply genetically more likely to get cancer than others)
- gender (some cancers are more common in one sex and not the other – breast cancer affects mostly women, for example, but can affect men too)
- medical treatment and drugs (some medications, such as the contraceptive pill increase our chances of getting some cancers)
Green tea and cancer
The use of green tea was first recorded in Asia, and its medicinal properties have been known for thousands of years. The Book of Tea, written by the Zen master Eisais in 1191 even mentions green tea and its benefits. It has been used to counteract the harmful effects of alcohol and as a stimulant throughout history. It has also played a role in treating skin diseases and beriberi. People have found green tea to helpful in alleviating indigestion and fatigue. It is also claimed that it can improve urinary and brain function.
Many researchers are now focusing their efforts on understanding how regularly drinking green tea may decrease your chances of developing cancer. Others are examining green tea as a potential cancer treatment. It can be ingested or used as a poultice.
The research is still in its early stages, but one Japanese study conducted in 2006 found that adults that consumed three or more cups of green tea a day for several years had a mortality rate from cardiovascular and cancer-related diseases. Here are some of the purported benefits of regularly drinking green tea.
Possible health benefits of green tea
Green tea contains compounds called catechins which are a group of flavonoids. These substances are thought to help the body fight cancer cells but leave healthy normal cells untouched. A subsatance called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has received a lot of attention lately but a lot more research is needed to establish which types of cancer may be affected by green tea. Some health professionals have concerns about the quantity of fluoride in green tea. It is suspected that fluoride could be harmful to the body is it is consumed in large amounts. However, it is also true that fluoride is plays an impotrant role in strengthening the bones and teeth.
Some of the suggested health benefits of green tea are:
- prevention and/or treatment of carcinoma of the skin, esophagus, stomach, and colon. Possibly because it neutralizes free radicals (antioxidant properties).
- cognitive improvement (thinking and understanding)
- helpful in Alzheimer’s disease
- multiple sclerosis treatment.
Flaxseed and cancer
Flax can be taken as an infusion, a powder or as an oil. It contains healthy fats and is thought to be an important source of fibre. It has traditionally been used to help gastrointestinal conditions, cardiovascular and circulatory conditions.
Linseed contains a substance called lignans, which may compete with estrogen and so slow down the progress of certain types of cancer. This would be of benefit in hormone related cancers such as breast cancer.